Inspector General proposal has merit

Posted 1/10/24

There are few qualities we value more in the media world than that of transparency. As the famous slogan of the Washington Post has long declared: “Democracy dies in darkness.”

It …

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Inspector General proposal has merit


There are few qualities we value more in the media world than that of transparency. As the famous slogan of the Washington Post has long declared: “Democracy dies in darkness.”

It seems a pretty universally agreeable notion, but since the dawn of democracy itself there have always been those who benefit from a lack of transparency and relish a bounty of dark space to hide malfeasance or embarrassing mistakes in order to skirt responsibility and accountability for their actions.

We believe that transparency is an important check and balance on power regardless of which political party finds themselves in charge. And as unsettling as it can be for those who wield power to feel subjected to such scrutiny throughout the course of conducting their public duties, such a burden should be an expected and accepted one to carry for those wishing to conduct business on behalf of thousands of their fellow citizens, particularly when many of these positions come with enviable salaries and when many of these positions can have a profound impact on the daily lives of other people, whose taxes fund those salaries.

For these reasons, and more, we believe that 2024 should be the year that the General Assembly takes seriously the perennial proposal of the Rhode Island GOP to institute a wholly independent Office of the Inspector General.

This editorial is not meant to ambiguously accuse any one public official of having dirty laundry that needs airing, nor should it be seen as an indictment on the Rhode Island political system at large. We respect the difficult task that legislators and public administrators have in balancing many different constituent groups, opinions, and grievances throughout their careers. They are often tasked with choosing options that aggrieve the fewest number of people, rather than find those mythical solutions where everybody ends up smiling.

However, we do believe that there is a need for such an independent office to be created, and be adequately funded. We find it a suspect argument to claim that an estimated $1.5 million expense is too great to provide residents with a greater belief in the political and bureaucratic system around them. We have found many more dollars for far less worthy endeavors in the past.

The existing checks and balances on our governmental systems have their roles, and perform their duties to the best of their abilities; but they are limited, perhaps by design. A wholly independent office would enable neutral investigations of quasi-public boards (many of which no longer have Rhode Island legislators as a part of their boards, cutting the public out of these groups almost entirely). An independent office would not be beholden to a tricky relationship between its organizational structure and holding that structure accountable for any wrongdoing potentially found.

While there is no one silver bullet to weed out waste and corruption in any government, we find there to be no logical reason not to add another useful check on a system that, as with any other system, can always be improved for the betterment of all.

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